The Souls Journey – Creating Your Self Care Kit

May 8, 2019

Stress Can Grow Like a High Rise

Recently I have encountered a number of friends  experiencing unusual levels of stress. including death in the family, changing jobs and countries, personal illness, marriage, changes in employment of a partner and illness of a loved one. Two psychologists Thomas Holmes and Richard Rahe developed a stress index to assess if stress related to developing illness and in their opinion it does. If you are experiencing four of the above factors you would be at a higher risk of illness (See index)

Then We Forget Self-Care

One thing my friends had in common was that the aspects of their lives concerned with self-care had evaporated. Pressure of life had got in the way of things like exercise, yoga, going out in nature, relaxation and play.

It is no wonder that stress and anxiety create such a toll. It seems a general rule that the first things to go from a stressed life are the things that could actually help us cope. We are more likely to devote any available time and space top mindless distractions. Why is that?

Likely it is some form of childhood coping mechanism that has never left us. Under pressure we are more likely to engage in old patterns. Hiding one’s head under the covers seems a sound strategy to escape life’s challenges as a six-year old. Perhaps it has less relevance today.

Developing a Self-Care Kit

Each of us needs to identify our own self-care plan and find a way to remind ourselves when life takes a turn for the worse. As Carl Jung once said, “ the shoe that fits one person pinches another, there is no recipe for living that fits all cases.” Each plan needs to be individual.

Mine embraces daily meditation, a walk in nature, listening to music, writing in a journal, learning poetry and stopping watching TV at least an hour before bed. However we don’t all feel stress equally. It is essential to pay attention to how life unfolds.

Mindless TV and Games Playing and other Distractions Are Not Self-Care

I have learned to recognize that when I find myself slipping into mindless pursuits it is assign of underlying anxiety. I try to check in each evening and ask, “Did I live a balanced life today?” I do not beat myself up if I have not but I do attempt to stay fully conscious of what is going on in my life. And make adjustments.

So What To Do?

I also believe that times of great crisis remind us to assess whether the path we are travelling is in concert with our deepest being. Jungian analyst James Hollis in his wonderful book Living An Examined Life suggests, “When what we are doing is wrong for us we can temporarily mobilize energy in service to goals but in time such forced mobilization leads to irritability, anger, burn out and symptoms of all kinds.”

I think our society has detrimentally confused selfishness and Self-Care. Self -Care can help reduce stress and make our lives more productive and meaningful. Each of us should design a simple “Go To-Self Care Kit As the poet Hafiz (exquisitely interpreted by Daniel Ladinsky wrote in his poem The Swing, “You carry all the ingredients to turn your existence into joy, mix them, mix them.

Components for a Self-Care Kit

Developing your own self-care kit requires identification of the aspects of your life that bring you joy, help you to feel grounded, support you in moving into the witness state (observing what you are experiencing) and exploring the moments you seem to move into a relationship with the mystery or a larger sense of who you are. Some examples:

Meditation, Contemplation, Centering Prayer, Yoga – all ways of stilling the mind. Medical doctor and meditation teacher Jon Kabat-Zynn runs a successful mindfully-based stress reduction clinic at the University of Massachusetts medical Center that has demonstrated significant results.

Exercise: Running, a bike ride, walking, skiing, and many others can get us back into our bodies and  help reduce anxiety and stress.

The Arts: Music, poetry, art, theatre can all offer nutrition to cope with life’s traumas.

Grounding: This is considered a powerful way of addressing emotional trauma. Ruth Lanius, MD, PhD, is Professor of Psychiatry and the director of the posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) research unit at the University of Western Ontario recommends a Grounding Toolkit.*

Journaling: Writing and exploring can also be extremely cathartic.

Frequently we will argue that there is not time for these things but that is generally resistance. When the Buddha was asked, “what do you do when you are to busy to meditate” he replied that he would meditate for twice as long.

*This includes walking meditation where you’re paying attention to the feet on the floor; listening meditation where you’re listening to ambient sounds; nature meditation where you’re looking at trees and sky and the like. There are also equanimity practices where you imagine yourself being a mountain going through seasonal changes with a sense of continuity and stability to your “mountainness,” even though there is a lot of change going on around you. (https://s3.amazonaws.com/nicabm-stealthseminar/Trauma2017/confirmed/NICABM-TreatingTraumaMasterSeries-Module3TalkBack-TraumaticMemory.pdf)

 

 

https://s3.amazonaws.com/nicabm-stealthseminar/Trauma2017/confirmed/NICABM-TreatingTraumaMasterSeries-Module3TalkBack-TraumaticMemory.pdf

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The Souls Journey – Resistance is Futile

January 18, 2019
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“Resistance is Futile”

“Resistance is Futile”. These words may seem familiar to anyone who has viewed the longest running sc-fi TV series of all time – Dr. Who a BBC program that began in 1963. These lines are regularly uttered by the Dr’s arch-enemy the Daleks. As the Dr. is still around in 2019 this has proved an empty threat but you could be wondering how this is relevant to a blog dedicated to the Soul’s Journey?

What do I mean by resistance?

Resistance in terms of our psychology is when we unconsciously we block something from conscious memory. Freud pioneered this concept but all therapists encounter it in what is described as door knob therapy. At the end of a session a client is literally poised to leave the room when they mention the one vital thing that had eluded you for an hour. When I work with clients to help them arrive at a decision, I encourage them to commit to some intentions during the next few days. For example get immersed in some music, go for a walk in nature, monitor their dreams and notice the unusual – anything to help them escape the emotions and thoughts around the decision. It is a clear sign of resistance when they turn up at the next session and have done none of those things.

There seems to be an interesting parallel between the word resistance when applied to electricity as opposed to human nature. Electrical resistance is invisible. It is the degree to which an object opposes an electric current passed through it.

Human resistance is also invisible until we learn how to spot it. If we think of the object as human nature and electric current as our highest good then resistance is the degree to which we can oppose our highest good.

Why Do We Exhibit Resistance?

This question has been asked for centuries. In fact St. Paul in his epistle to the Romans asked,””For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do — this I keep on doing.” He blamed sin but I prefer the hypothesis that within each one of us there is an internal struggle for control and resistance is the way the ego attempts to control the agenda when we start soul work. Resistance will tend to take place whenever we embark on personal change, make a challenging decision or address some painful issue. We often cannot see the depths of our resistance until after the fact. Recently I ended a friendship of sixteen years; it was only in the aftermath that I realized I should have addressed the dysfunction three years earlier.

What Does Resistance Look Like?

It is a coat of many colours – denial, distraction, diversion, food indulgence, procrastination, avoidance, rationalization are some of the more obvious. As my friendship crumbled I rationalized that I needed to empathetic and loving. As a result I walked around on eggshells for three years failing to address the issue at the core of the disharmony. Then there are the more devious possibilities. One is the Spiritual Bypass where we escape into spiritual diversion and its accompanying risk of insidious self-satisfaction. Forgetfulness is another strong indicator that we are in resistance – we miss a therapy appointment we had scheduled.

How Do We Know Its Resistance?

There are a number of key pointers.

1) If you find yourself in a state of inertia, spending time in mindless distractions and failing to move ahead you may be resisting some task.

2) If you lose your sense of flow and doors seem to close rather than open and life is full of obstructions then you may be in resistance.

3) The “Cosmic 2 x 4” is nature’s way of getting our attention. If we fail to move forward with a core Soul priority, are missing the signposts we have been given then occasionally we are stopped in our tracks by a disaster or catastrophic event. Once in Thailand a branch fell from a tree on a clear, calm day and landed on my head a literal cosmic 2 x 4!

What To Do When We Realize We Are In Resistance?

The first step is to ask for support. I will set an intention each morning acknowledging I am stuck and seeking clarity. Then I pay attention to my life – the natural signs and synchronicities that act as signposts along my way. I explore my feelings is there an old haunting from the past that creates a fear of moving on. I pay special attention to my dreams. I explore the unhealed and unforgiven in my life that may require my attention.

Are the Daleks Right?

Is resistance futile? I believe it is; it serves a purpose to get our attention but eventually to complete our task we need to seek it out and disarm it. We can bypass it however it is still awaiting our attention. It’s a bit like an unpaid parking ticket; we can ignore it but it can come back to haunt us. Acknowledging and facing our resistance is a key to our peace of mind and restoring a sense of flow to our lives.


The Soul’s Journey -25 Things I Wish I Had Known When I Was Young.

November 15, 2018

Recently I was invited to participate on a senior’s panel for a class of students studying psychology. It was an extremely interesting and enjoyable experience sharing reflections on the gifts and the challenges of aging and being asked all kinds of interesting questions.

One question has stayed with me, “what would you like to have shared with your younger self?” At the time I quipped, “I doubted my younger self would have listened”. However the question has been haunting me since then. I realized that there are so many things that could have helped me on the journey. Two of us on the panel deeply regretted having no sage mentors to offer such counsel. So here is some of mine.

I am not sure which of these I could have heard at the time however now they all make much great sense. Here they are – in no particular order.

1) This too shall pass – the wise reminder that everything – the good, bad and indifferent will change.

2) Do not make assumptions and do not take it personally. (Two of Don Miguel Ruiz’s Four Agreements.)

3) Know thyself – inscribed in the Temple to Apollo in Delphi. To understand who we are and why we react the way we do is priceless and has become a twenty-year passion of mine.

4) You are better looking and more interesting than you realize. (I was terribly challenged by lack of self-esteem and shyness.)

5) Be curious about everything that happens in your life.

6) When a door closes always look around for the door that may be opening rather than batter on the one that is closed.

7) The other two agreements – do your best and be impeccable to your word.

8) Meditate every day – I did not start until I was 50 and wished I had begun earlier.

9) Read poetry, it speaks to a deeper part of who we are.

10) Find music that touches you deeply and listen to it often,

11) Accept that in life you will win and lose – do both gracefully.

12) Learn to recognize that there is a gap between the stimulus and the reaction. (Steven Covey)

13) Don’t drink so much; you are not as funny as you think; it is an escape.

14) Learn the difference between being alone and feeling lonely – you don’t have to go out on a Saturday night.

15) Always remember the four immeasurables (from Buddha) – Compassion, Loving Kindness, Equanimity and Sympathetic Joy. (Enjoying the success of others)

16) Attachment is not necessarily bad but it will eventually end in suffering. (Buddha)

17) When someone upsets you look inside before you react outwards. A psychological truism is that “it is never about what it is about.”

18) You don’t have to be religious to acknowledge the wonderful principles of the great wisdom traditions. How can you argue with “Love One Another”?

19) Our close attractions are normally projections of some part of ourselves that is unfulfilled or unrealized. We project our inner gold on other people and need to reclaim it. (Robert Johnson)

20) Your parents did the best they could – forgive them.

21) Look for patterns in your life they come to teach you something.

22) We wake up each morning with two gremlins at the end of our bed – they are fear and lethargy. (James Hollis)

23) Pay close attention when you develop an instant dislike to someone, they normally represent something we don’t like in ourselves. (We all have shadow and light)

24) Anxiety is a nebulous free flowing child state, when you are anxious try to ascertain what the underlying fear is, it will reduce its power over you. (Sometimes anxiety is unconscious and shows up as mindless diversions and distractions.)

25) Forgiveness is about the self not the other however to forgive you do not have to condone.

I am sure more will come to me but this seems like a good starting point.

 


The Soul’s Journey – Reading the Body’s Signs and Symptoms

May 19, 2018

I am standing at the top of my stairs when my throat began to close up. I am puzzled. Is this an allergic reaction, a virus or something more metaphysical? I stood for a moment and the words “it’s hard to swallow” popped into my head. I laughed. I knew exactly the meaning of this symptom. Within minutes my throat had eased.

 Mind/Body/Soul?

My interest in the mind/body/soul relationship was developed by medical intuitive Mona Lisa Schultz’s remarkable book Awakening Intuition.This was expanded by metaphysical teacher and author Louise Hay’s work particularly Heal Your Body which has become a superlative reference book when I sense my body is trying to tell me something. More recently there is the Jungian perspective that suffering is a device the Soul may use to get our attention. Eminent author and Jungian Analyst James Hollis suggests we lose life force if our lives are not consistent with our deeper Soul desires. I am by no means an absolutist in terms of the body/Soul connection and certainly do not suggest that all our ailments are connected to a Soul issue. However I do believe we owe it to ourselves to at least consider the possibility when we get symptoms

Too Hard to Swallow?

I have had too much personal evidence that my body is part of my intuitive system to ignore it. The message from my throat closing up was that an interview I had completed earlier for a story I was planning to write for the Centre for Integrated Healing was just too hard to swallow and I should not write it. On another occasion I had a persistent chest cold but before heading to the doctor, I asked myself what inner work this may represent. The response came loud and clear “you have something to get off your chest”. I connected the dots to recall an encounter with a friend that remained unresolved and was getting in the way of our friendship. I got it off my chest and both the cold and the friendship were healed.

Following the Clues

However it is even more affirming when I encounter this principle when working with a client. Recently one arrived who was clearly feeling very good. In response to my enquiry he said that so much had turned around since our last session. He was on top of his job, his financial state was finally reflecting all the work he had been doing and best of all his painful back was better. I asked if he saw any connection with his back healing and his improved state. I recalled that last session we had looked up L5 pain in my Heal Your Body book. The first suggested cause was security. “It’s interesting” I observed, “that your back improved at the same time your security concerns diminished – are you interested in exploring the connection?” A couple of months ago when he was feeling financially insecure, I had suggested prebilling and was curious if he had followed through. He shook his head and said that he really enjoyed the lump sums flowing in when the project was completed. “Any other reason?’ I queried. There was a pause then he exclaimed, “that isn’t exactly true, I don’t pre-bill because it causes me to feel an obligation to the project. “But aren’t you already committed once you accept the project?” I enquired.  At this point I reflected on the sequence of events: “you felt financially insecure, you chose not to improve things, you got an L5 problem that Louise Hay suggests is about insecurity. This healed once the cash flow improved.” It seemed quite convincing and I wondered out loud whether he thought he could have avoided the back problem if he had taken steps to address the insecurity earlier. Then it was like the roulette ball falling into the desired slot. The voice dissuading him from the appropriate measure to increase cash flow was the reaction of an old child complex around avoiding responsibility. Perhaps the Soul gift was to remember if this happened again to renegotiate from the perspective of the adult who knew the commitment came from accepting the project not by asking for a pre-payment.

Another amazing example that the Soul knows the way even when the ego doesn’t and that sometimes we need to pay attention to the body to get the message.


The Soul’s Journey – Living the Examined Life

April 11, 2018

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I woke this morning feeling heavy – a combination of drowsiness, resistance to starting the day and inertia that I often associate with the grey, cloudy, damp, dreary day it appeared to be. I began my morning mindfulness meditation but felt distracted and unfocussed. I would drag the attention back to the breath but noticed it would move to my heartbeat and a heaviness around my heart. I checked for associated signs of a heart attack then brought the attention back to the breath

No Such Thing as a Bad Meditation

After I finished I noticed some judgment that it hadn’t been a “better” meditation. I reminded myself that there is no such thing as a bad meditation and began my day as usual with some tea, sacred music and reflection. I started to journal about how I was feeling. I had some judgment about how little I had accomplished the previous day. In the morning I had tried hard to focus on my list of things to do but had run into a series of obstacles that had frustrated me. It was one of those days when I tried to push through while getting nowhere.

Leaving The Stuck Place

Finally I had taken off for a coffee and a lovely walk around the ocean and Granville Island. It felt good. I recited some of the poems I have learned, sung some chants and enjoyed the beauty. By the time I got home I decided it was time to reengage but to no avail. I felt like reading so I picked up a novel I was reading Jodi Picoult’s Leaving Time and in no time got totally engrossed and could not put it down until I had finished. I noticed this strange sensation of guilty pleasure. My afternoon and evening were filled with reading, listening to music, some old Twilight Zones (I love that show), a brief strata meeting and an hour of contemplation before bed. I am trying to learn a poem that begins with the words,

“Days pass when I forget the mystery. Problems insoluble and problems offering their own ignored solutions jostle for my attention, they crowd its antechamber along with host of diversions, my courtiers, wearing their coloured clothes, caps and bells.

Denise Levertov Primary Wonder

What is Life Supposed to Look Like?

As I write I realize my angst comes from fear I am not living the life I think I should live. My mentor eminent Jungian analyst James Hollis talks about living the examined life in his recent book of the same name. I wonder if I am ignoring my responsibility to my Soul through lethargy and inertia or is this just my old protestant work ethic getting its reminder in. I sit perplexed and write, “What is life supposed to look like at the age of 74?” Yesterday I avoided lots of things I could have been doing. Each morning I affirm that I will be guided where my passion takes me but what if my passion seems to want to read a novel?

A Meaningful Coincidence

In my confusion I recall a moment of fascinating synchronicity that happened the day before. On Sunday I had facilitated a dream workshop. It is I something I truly love to do: it is engaging, rewarding, invigorating and a full day. One of the practices I offer is asking participants to draw a card from a deck I have titled Soul Cards. They are images without explanations. The exercise is to observe what feelings, energy and symbols arise from your projection on the image – it is a gentle introduction to a process that is similar to how I explore dreams. As I was putting the cards away I noticed one that seemed to speak to me; I knew my priority was to continue holding the space for the group so I ignored the impulse to explore it. At the end of the day I was ready for a walk and to relax so I packed everything away without giving the image another thought. However the universe had other plans. On Monday morning as I engaged in a frustrating search for a photo of Assisi, I encountered a photo of the same card taken on January 14th. I have no recollection of taking it but suspect I took it for someone at my dream workshop then. It seemed like a sign to explore.

Taking a Journey Into The Imaginal World

I found the card and began a journey of active imagination with it. What were the symbols – a gentle, curious deer; a solid tree holding up to stormy weather; a feminine figure resting in the security of the tree. The energy is both dynamic yet peaceful, my feelings included a sense of curiosity while feeling strangely reassured.

The Ah-Ha moment.

Of course! The deer was the reminder to bring gentle curiosity to myself when I feel blown about – not judgment. The card reminded me that after an intense day like Sunday I needed to take it easy. The woman reminded me it was about connecting more to the feminine and resting in the embrace of the earth. I had become stuck in the masculine energy of doing things and then getting frustrated by pressing on rather than letting go. After exploring this image I noticed an immediate shift: the heaviness around my heart dissipated, my energy lifted, my judgment of myself diminished and I felt a restored sense of flow. Perhaps this is what living the examined life is all about.

Denis Levertov’s poem finishes like this:

And then once more the mystery is present to me, the throng’s clamour recedes, the mystery that there is anything at all, let alone cosmos, joy, memory, everything rather than void: and that.O Lord, Creator Hallowed One, You still hour by hour sustain it.

Thanks so much Denise for your exquisite insight.

 


A Soul’s Journey – Increasing Stress and The Shadow Personality

March 21, 2018

My plane is touching down and I notice a plethora of feelings: anxiety, apprehension, foreboding, gratitude and joy. For almost two years I have been organizing a conference for the Spiritual Community I work with; it is in Oaxaca, Mexico. And tomorrow it begins. So too, would my own personal ‘conference’ with the alter ego I call ‘Shadow Trevor’.

A Glorious Locale

Oaxaca is a beautiful Spanish colonial city in southwestern Mexico replete with colourful, streets reminiscent of Europe and more than a dozen medieval churches built in the grand Dominican style – an astonishing combination of European style and vibrant Mexican culture. The area is a treasure of regional crafts, Mesoamerican archeological remains and a spirituality that combines indigenous and the Catholic beliefs, focused significantly around the Lady of Guadeloupe. It is, however, still in Mexico, and fully subject to unexpected bureaucratic complications. The unfolding journey had been challenging but successful, I was ready to complete my two-year mission.

The Stress Builds

Organizing a conference is a full time preoccupation for four days. You are managing all the details – meals, breaks, speakers, and everyone’s personal needs, discomforts and anxieties that they need to bring to your attention. Then in addition, the stream of the unexpected always takes you by surprise. Over the next 24 hours, circumstances began to concentrate, like the flow of magma in a volcano, building up pressure within me.

  • Someone was claiming they had paid for a room at the hotel and they were not on my list.
  • A speaker arrives with the flu and has no idea when he will be well enough to slot into a packed schedule.
  • His absence requires you unexpectedly to take on an additional event that is connected to the conference but not actually part of it.
  • Two speakers give you lists of unexpected demands for their Sunday presentations
  • One of our community members had gone to great effort to organize a permit for a dance (17 steps of Mexican bureaucracy) and due to miscommunication, the time is wrong and it may not fit the agenda.
  • The meeting space has to be completely cleared by 4.00pm to allow the set up for Friday night’s optional event – dinner and performance of Guelegatzer Dancing – which suddenly grabs everyone’s focus, requiring constant attention.
  • There is a desire to schedule an additional event Sunday evening. Sure. Why not.

At this point, unaware of the impending volcano, I am going with the flow, keeping a smile on my face, adapting and solving problems. And then I make a catastrophic error.

 Where it All Goes Terribly Wrong

Prior to the last event I conducted in Assisi, I had a powerful dream that reminded me of the importance of grounding myself and avoiding too much alcohol as a coping mechanism. I should have remembered this on the Friday.

That night, at the dance performance, relaxing after a full-on day, I had a glass of red wine. It tasted so good, it led to another. Then the maître’d approached me to tell me they had used the allotted wine for the evening. “Keep pouring,” I instructed generously, sliding down the slippery slope. By then my decision-making was compromised and instead of the grounding walk my body desperately needed; it was off to the bar for another drink.

The Three Faces of Control

I learned control at an early age. My mother had a baby, a four-year old, a six-year old, a ten-year old son from her first marriage, and two stepchildren aged 14 and 16. How she coped is still beyond my comprehension, but as a consequence I learned independence at a young age. Six-year-old Trevor took charge of his 4-year-old brother and created a world of wonderful adventures.

This has proven a great gift in my life and control and organization has contributed hugely to my success in the business world. But when my veneer of control comes under attack, this vulnerable six year old is exposed and a darker persona emerges to try and keep the walls of the fortress from crumbling. I call him “shadow Trevor”

This persona forfeits the niceness and smiles, focusing purely on getting the job done. He can be abrupt, possible hostile, cannot tolerate dissension and has no time for pleasantries.

If he fails in his quest the result is dire – the six year old is uncovered. The face of the six year old during my business career was explosive anger, erupting like Vesuvius and apologizing later.

My New Six Year Old Face

I have spent twenty years getting more in touch with my emotional body, and on Saturday morning, as I began to feel overwhelmed, I saw for the first time another, more endearing side to my six year old.

Rather than getting angry, I wanted to cry.

I sought out my partner Atum, who carries the responsibility of the teachings at the conference, and told him I needed a quiet word. We went to my room and I broke down and sobbed. The feeling of release, followed by joy, was amazing. I had a sympathetic shoulder to cry on and share some of the load I was carrying; it was a tremendous relief.

It’s a shame this is not an acceptable business strategy. Businessmen would live a little longer.

Reflections on The Journey

As eminent Jungian analyst and author James Hollis suggests, “we all live in haunted houses”, meaning the past will unconsciously influence our current behaviours.

Seeing emotion not as an enemy but a friendly face is a positive new awareness. Noticing that when “shadow Trevor” emerges it is time for some conscious rebalancing and shedding of the load is another important realization.

My resort to alcohol as reflexive anxiety management system was old history repeating itself. I learn slowly, but hopefully become a little more self-aware each time.

So I am choosing to organize one more conference before I lay down the responsibility. It will be Assisi in 2020.

As the Bard said, “Once more unto the breach dear friends, once more”.

 


A Flutter of the Cosmic Cape

December 10, 2017

On Thursday I awoke suddenly to the beating of my heart. It seemed faster than usual. Since the procedure that corrected my atrial fibrillation I have been much more conscious of my heart, I focused, it was still in sinus rhythm then it seemed to miss a beat. I was immediately traumatized; I practically leaped out of bed; the possibility that my atrial fibrillation was coming back deeply disturbed me.

Coping With Denial

At first I did not want to know. I decided to engage in my morning meditation practice hoping it would dissipate by the time I finished. However it still seemed to be beating faster than usual. I made my morning tea, sat for a while with my anxiety then checked my pulse again. It was definitely beating faster than I was used to however it did not have the familiar pattern of the arrhythmia that I had lived with for ten months. My first coping strategy was to suppress what could be happening. I would rather spend the day in denial rather than address the situation. I had an appointment with my cardiologist in less than week; I would try to defer worrying until then.

A Tinge of Relief

I headed to the gym. As I began my 35 minutes on the treadmill, I was apprehensive about what would happen. For ten months the treadmill had not been able to measure my heart beat because of the erratic rhythm. (At the time I had assumed all the machines were broken.) Since my procedure they had worked fine. After fifteen minutes I gingerly placed my hands on the monitors. I practically held my breath waiting the fifteen seconds for the reading. Finally 154 showed up. I gave a sigh of relief and offered up a brief prayer of gratitude. It was not arrhythmia but why was my heart beating less efficiently? It was definitely about ten beats faster than usual. Was I becoming obsessional? Was this something to worry about or was it just within normal range? I knew it wasn’t tachyarrhythmia, the levels would be much higher and it wouldn’t steadily decline.

Slipping into Mindlessness

I did my best to pack my anxiety away and get on with my workout. I was relieved to find it didn’t possess me as I got on with my day. It was only later in the evening that I noticed I had shifted into a state of preoccupation with overlapping mindless activity – Netflix, playing games on my iPad and feeling restless. When this happens it is like a stop sign reminding me I had unresolved anxiety.

Contemplation and Reflection

I decided to spend the last two hours of the day in contemplation and reflection to assess what was going on. I began by putting on some sacred music, then picking up my journal.

I began to unpackage my anxiety. It was not so much about the condition – I had lived with it for ten months; I was fortunate enough to have few side effects. However I certainly did not want to get embroiled in the medical system once again.

The Anxiety Behind the Anxiety

Then I realized what eminent Jungian analyst and author James Hollis describes as the anxiety behind the anxiety. I had undertaken a three-month inner journey as a result of my atrial fibrillation. (See https://wp.me/phAyS-CP) Suddenly I was facing a realization that perhaps my quest for meaning has been nothing but a delusion. Perhaps I had made it up to feel better. This was the real fear – that this inner journey had been for nothing In summary, “I guess feel bummed, and the proponents that life is random win out.”

The Puzzle Unfolds

As I sat reflecting, listening to the beautiful music of Enya, some pieces of my personal puzzle emerged. On Tuesday I had held a dream group. During the evening we drew angel cards and another from a deck called The Nature Speak Oracle by Ted Andrews that had previously offered great insight. On this particular evening I had drawn Courage from the angel cards and Power of Prayer from the nature deck. Neither had seemed particularly relevant then but they certainly did now. Then I recalled a practice I often do when I am suffering from challenges of faith. I review what I refer to as my Soul Journal. It is a collection of meaningful moments on the Soul Journey including something I describe as Moments of Awe and Wonder. It is my “Go To Chest” in times of challenge.

Exploring My Go To Chest

Somewhat synchronistically the previous day I had come across the very first entries when I first started in 2010. As I reviewed I began to capture the list again in my journal.

  • Taking a hiking cane for the first time on the day I broke my ankle, without it I would never have made it off the mountain.
  • Doing a 360 over my handlebars to avoid a small child and finding myself sitting on the ground with no injury as a passerby said “wow that was spectacular”
  • Meeting a woman for the first time in a line up at the library and realizing I had her telephone number in my pocket as someone I wanted to write about.
  • Driving up Mammoth Lakes Road and feeling what I thought was an electric shock. When I stopped I saw a turn-off that I knew I needed to explore and found a couple desperate because they had locked their keys in the car.
  • Having a psychic love affair as a result of which my worldview completely shifted.

In total I recorded eighteen of these moments of awe and wonder. I felt a clarity and calmness. No one contrary incident could cause the experience of years to collapse. My worldview felt affirmed. Perhaps I was supposed to live with atrial fibrillation, if that was my destiny then so be it. I will continue to seek meaning in every experience. It is my way.

Power of Prayer – I Hope

I decided was time to engage in the power of prayer. I have a somewhat dualistic relationship with prayer. I know it works – there are too many amazing stories about prayer. (Check out Larry Dossey’s books on the subject.) But how when and why is all part of what I call the Mystery. Who exactly I am praying to is beyond my comprehension. I don’t believe in praying for specific outcomes for my self. The phrasing of this particular prayer was more a discussion.

“Divine presence within me, I would prefer not to have my atrial fibrillation return but I am willing to accept whatever is for my highest good. In which case I pray for the gift of acceptance and surrender. Maybe it will come back, maybe it won’t, help me to surrender”

An Amazing Shift

I noticed how much better I was feeling. I found a new poem to learn and wrote it out, I did a gratitude meditation and focused on the transmission of positive energy to others. I realized how much better it was to spend my time in this manner as opposed to the mindless television and games playing.

The next morning I felt different. After my meditation I checked my pulse – the gentle, slow beat of my heart had returned. I sat with gratitude in my heart and wondered what I may have been missing.

A Flutter of the Cosmic Cape

The words the fluttering of the cosmic cape came into head. Like the matador fluttering his cape at the bull, perhaps the cosmos had been trying to get my intention.  As I contemplated this possibility, it occurred to me I had lost my way in terms of two practices that used to be a key component of my day. On the day of my episode I had spoken to a friend in Ontario who shared with me her morning practice of music, journaling and contemplation. As she spoke I remembered that used to be my practice before I got an iPad. Then the ability to check e-mail created so many distractions that contemplative practice vanished. Also my evening gratitude practice had also become truncated and squeezed in between TV watching and bed.

Finding My Way

It is time to disengage and set a different focus. My day would begin with meditation; continue with music, journaling and contemplation. At ten in the evening, I would put away my devices and focus on my inner journey. I would try and spend from 10 p.m. to 10 a.m. without devices.

Post Script: Missing The Clues

It was only as this particular episode completed that I realized that the flutter of the cape was perhaps the end of a series of hints and clues my Soul had been sending me. (I sense the fluttering of the cape is one step ahead of the cosmic 2 x 4.)

First I burned myself on a hot dish, then I damaged my ribs helping my friend load his truck, spilt a bag of almonds and lost a toque that I was fond of. Then there were two dreams: one with Woody Allen and the other featuring Donald Trump reminding me that if I follow that which is mindless, shallow and inauthentic I will lose out. All small things but certainly suggesting my life had lost its flow. (See my dreamclarity blog for more on the dreams

James Hollis suggests in his book “What Matters Most” that the psyche asks of us what sustains the Soul and what sustains the Spirit and if we do not answer these consciously they will go underground and show up as somatic disorders, behavioral disorders and projections. I sense my Soul was asking the question but I was asleep.